Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year in Review

And just like that, 2010 is over. In some ways it seems to have stretched on forever, considering everything that has transpired in the past 365 days. And yet there are moments from those days that are so vividly etched into my memory that they could have just as likely taken place this morning, or yesterday, or a few weeks ago. I remember exactly one year ago today strapping on the flats for my first tentative workout after battling an autumn full of injuries. I was standing on the track at San Diego High with Jordan, basking in the warmth of the late morning California sun, asking for nothing more than to get through 3x mile in one piece. I remember turning to Jordan after closing the last interval in 5:32 and remarking that I had about five weeks before attempting to run a 5k almost 10 seconds per mile faster to qualify for D2 Indoor Nationals. At the time, the idea was almost unfathomable. Little did I know that I would accomplish that goal and so many more in the whirlwind year that was to follow.

One way to sum up my running in 2010 would be to call it a year of redemption. In 2009, my first "collegiate" track season as a graduate student at Queens, I achieved modest PRs of 17:27 (indoors) and 36:12. Both of these were provisional qualifiers for their respective National meets but neither made the cut (though I was only the third person left out of the 10k). Or, to go back even farther, prior to coming to Queens in 2009 my PRs at the same distances were something like 18:30 and 38:00. I was a decent local runner and nothing more. So that first track season at Queens, though unremarkable, ignited something within me. I caught a glimpse of the potential I never knew was there, that had possibly been lying latent within me the entire time, and I knew that I only had one chance to maximize it. To be fair, that's not entirely true; I can run track meets until I'm 90 years old if I so choose. But with only two semesters of track eligibility at Queens, the spring of 2010 was truly my final shot as an NCAA athlete. It was time to see what I could do.

As most readers of my blog know, the year went better than I could have ever imagined. Don't misunderstand that statement as me being boastful; on the contrary, I'm humbled every day by the performances of the friends and competitors who surround me. Rather, try to view it as I do, as someone who is still a bit in awe of the fact that she was, through the efforts and beliefs and positive encouragement of her coaches and friends and family, afforded the opportunity to transform from an average local runner to a legitimate competitor in some of the most prestigious track meets in the country. (Granted, I got lapped in most of those meets, sometimes twice, but it's still pretty freaking cool.) I raced twice at the Armory, twice at Stanford, once at Penn Relays. I spent two miles jogging in the 5k at Indoor Nationals in Albuquerque and two miles sprinting my ass off in the 5k at Outdoor Nationals in Charlotte. I was absolutely ecstatic to run 34:37 for 10k at the first Stanford meet--and, unbelievably, held the top spot on the D2 national performance list until Tanya and Sarah shattered that mark at the Payton Jordan Invite five weeks later. It was there where I watched Chris Solinsky break the US 10k record--except I barely noticed because I was too busy pouting about my own performance, when I'd run an almost identical time as the previous meet but experienced completely opposite emotions. There are some races I'd like to forget--sprinting off the track during Conference to find a bathroom, anyone?--and others that, no matter what, I know I'll remember for the rest of my life. There isn't a week that goes by when I don't flash back to the last lap of the 10k at Outdoor Nationals, when I was in second place and gaining on Tanya. I remember looking up with 300 to go and seeing Jordan at the fence. He yelled, "You can win this thing!" and I swear that I spent the next 50 seconds trying to prove him right. In the end, it didn't happen. Tanya held strong, and despite my 2:33 last 800 I got my doors blown off by Sarah with 100 to go. Part of me was absolutely devastated. The other part is still amazed, to this day, that I was even there at all.

And so, gradually, the accumulation of all those experiences brought me to the most powerful result of 2010: the realization that I do belong in those races. I went from never qualifying for Nationals to earning three All-American honors in as many months. That doesn't happen by accident. So even though my brief collegiate career is over seemingly just as it was beginning, my mindset as a runner is forever changed. I refuse to go back to being complacent with haphazard training and mediocre race performances. Sure, running can't always be my top priority--let's not forget I finally have a wonderful, fun, amazing real job!--but 2011 is my year to set ambitious, yet achievable, goals. For starters, I will qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. Megan Hovis and Caitlin made it look easy in 2010, and I'll never hear the end of it if I don't join them soon. If I can achieve that early enough in the year, I plan to put together a track season with the hopes of qualifying for US Outdoor Nationals. I have some unfinished business in the 10k, and I'd like to try to drop my PR by another minute or so. It won't be easy, but I believe it's attainable. Finally, and tightly interwoven among all of the above, I need to stay healthy. This is an obvious statement but one that always proves difficult for me to enact. With that said, in looking back at 2010 I only missed four weeks of running--in early fall, when I messed up my foot--and there's no reason why 2011 can't bring even more consistency.

Of course, this past year wasn't all about me. (Maybe 99% about me, but not completely.) It's been amazing seeing so many of my friends and training partners achieve great things. From Caitlin and Megan's marathon qualifiers to Tanya and Mike's national titles, Jordan and Danielle's victories and PRs at Thunder Road to Pezz's top 10 finish at Club XC Nationals, these achievements and many more have been pretty inspiring to witness and, in some cases, play a small part in. 2010 was also the year I became a member of the Charlotte Running Club, which in my unbiased opinion is quickly turning into one of the most engaging and supportive local running clubs I've ever seen. Having such a great resource here in Charlotte has transformed what could be viewed as a less than stellar training environment for serious runners into a wonderful and supportive community. Remembering the cacophony of their voices screaming my name every time I came down the backstretch at Nationals--that's 25 times in the 10k, but who's counting--still brings a smile to my face. There are some intangibles that you can't put a price on (well, other than the $20 a year membership fee), and this cohort is one of them.

And so, as 2010 draws to a close, I have many things to be thankful for and proud of. I also know I have a long way to go if I want to make another incremental jump as a runner. 2011 is the year I am up for the challenge, and with the help and support of all the wonderful people around me I truly believe that anything is possible.

Happy New Year, friends. Let's make it great.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

(Christmas) Week in Review

81 miles
3 doubles
4 AFDs
6 states and a district (NC, VA, DC, MD, WVA, PA, OH)

Yes, I realize that skipping straight to the "week in review" is cheating. I'm doing a disservice to the entire week by not detailing the City Sports run club where we posed for a photo in front of the White House Christmas tree, or my 11-mile run around the Mall with Jordan, or the frigid runs in Ohio where I trudged along solo after Jordan and I traded Achilles injuries. But, simply put, I'm going to fall even farther behind if I don't wrap up the Christmas week with a neat little bow (no pun intended) and move on to the final week of the year. Don't worry; I'm including a few photos to make up for my laziness.

Madison and Tyler finish opening their Christmas presents. They already
got up and opened their "Santa" gifts while the rest of us slept--at 3am!!

As you can see from the stats above, I once again managed to notch a respectable mileage total despite all our traveling and despite my Achilles not being 100% (although it's like 98.4% right now, I swear). I still don't have any workouts to speak of, although I did sneak in 12x1 minute intervals on Christmas Eve morning around the streets of Mason. Nothing crazy, but it felt good to pick up the pace a bit. As I mentioned, Jordan is now experiencing some lower leg issues of his own, which meant that I was left to fend for myself most days. That inconvenience was coupled with the snow and ice that rendered the two parks within jogging distance of our home base in Mason completely impassible. Our only other option, a 100+ mile bike path a short drive away, was even less hospitable. So not only would I spend the majority of the week running by myself, but I also would have no idea where to go. Fortunately that's where Jordan's uncle Dave stepped in. Dave, a middle school principal who has the rest of December off, happens to be an avid runner and a solid 3:30 marathoner (and, at a mere 42 years old, he has already completed a whopping 58 marathons). He also lives a literal stone's throw away from Glenn and Eloisa's house, which made meeting up for runs incredibly convenient. So Dave became a lifesaver for me, accompanying me on at least half my runs and steering us through pedestrian-friendly streets and neighborhoods. He made for great company and a reliable tour guide and more or less salvaged my Ohio running. Though I know he doesn't read this blog, thanks a bunch Dave.

When he's not running, Dave mixes a mean cocktail.

Jordan icing his Achilles the old-fashioned way--with snow from outside.
Little bro Tyler wanted to compete in the "tough guy" contest as well.

And so, with one final week remaining in 2010, it's almost time to reflect on the past year while simultaneously setting goals for the next one. I hope to close out the year with a bang--and by that I mean a week of high mileage and a long-awaited workout or two--and start off 2011 feeling healthy and fit. With Jordan pulled up lame and Caitlin out of town until 12/31, I will probably be solo for most of the week once we return to Charlotte. If I can make it until Saturday, however, I'll be rewarded with the first annual CRC Hangover Run at McAlpine, a guaranteed opportunity to see tons of running friends and swap New Year's Eve stories. Until then, it's time to finish this year off right.

Jordan really liked Whitney's glasses... he decided to try them on. Looks like a perfect fit!

Enjoying our Christmas dinner. Happy holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas To All

Lots to discuss as I am falling a bit behind on the blogging, but this post unfortunately will not provide any immediate amelioration. Instead I want to report that Jordan and I are safe and sound and enjoying a snow-capped Christmas holiday with family in Mason, Ohio. I'm currently sipping a glass of champagne garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds before settling in for a long winter's nap, er, feast; what could be a better way to spend a holiday afternoon? We arrived here on Christmas Eve eve via DC where I made my third trip this past week. Naturally between the two locations there has been quite a bit of revelry and merriment with a few runs sprinkled in for good measure. I'll provide more details tomorrow, but for now here's wishing you and yours the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny f@#king Kay! (Any and all red-blooded Americans should get the reference, but since I know there's at least one Brit reading I'll throw you all a break and link you to one of the greatest scenes of one of the greatest holiday movies of all time.)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Week in Review

78 miles
3 doubles
0 workouts
1 ugly sweater party
4 AFDs

Am I really typing this entry five days before Christmas?? Holy moly, how time flies! It is incredible to think that 2010 is less than two weeks from becoming a slowly disappearing object in my rearview mirror. Many of my fellow bloggers are jumping the gun a bit to produce their "year in review" lists, but I'll probably hold off a few more days on that. Instead, let's take a brief look at this penultimate week before Christmas.

For starters, the Achilles and/or lower leg is better. Not 100%, but better. I'd put it at about 92% and steadily improving. The fact that I was able to notch almost 80 miles while still rehabbing and not feeling my best gives me some mental confidence, but the knowledge that I'm still not able to work out sort of cancels out any of those gains. Jordan has rightfully reined me in a few times, such as when I wanted to join in for Caitlin's stellar 3x2 mile workout on Friday, telling me under no uncertain terms that I am not allowed to go hard until this thing is licked. I know he's right, but with a goal race looming on the horizon it's hard to remain patient. Still, I'm trying.

The other confounding factor of the week was the snow/ice that impeded my DC travel. The fact that I managed to make it home without slipping on the sidewalk or sliding Mini into a curb or achieving some other vehicular misfortune is about the best one can hope for in that type of situation. I will return to the District one final time next week, this time with my trusty co-pilot in tow, for the last City Sports DC Run Club of the season and a few more store visits. After that, Jordan and I will make our way to Mason, OH for our Christmas celebration. Last time we were here Jordan wrestled with the swine flu and I was struggling with shin sp
lints, so let's hope that this visit goes much more smoothly. We are both pretty excited about catching up with his family members and seeing little sis Madison's new kitty, so this should be a great trip.

I will close with a few photos from arguably the highlight of the week, Tyler/Matt/Jay's Ugly Sweater Party on Saturday night. Our dysfunctional family comprising me, Jordan, John and Caitlin failed in finding sweaters but succeeded in looking sufficiently awkward in a set of matching little kids' pajamas from Target. Matt apparently had the same idea, but his PJ's fit better (and by "better" I mean "more like Hugh Hefner"). We made quite the motley
crew and hopefully did justice to the Awkward Family Photos site we were hoping to pay homage to. Christmas, consider yourself properly celebrated.



Friday, December 17, 2010

DC in December, Round 2

For the second Tuesday in a row, I hit the road early with the District as my destination. Craft and Karhu is sponsoring the City Sports DC Run Club for the month of December, which simply means that I am in attendance at each of their Tuesday night runs with wear test products, giveaways and of course lots of enthusiasm. Last Tuesday was the first run of the month and it was a rousing success. It was also painfully, take-your-breath-away cold and windy, and I remember avowing right then and there (as soon as my mouth thawed enough for me to enunciate properly) that there was no possible way it could be colder the following week.

It was.

This Tuesday night run was quite literally numbingly cold, and for the second week in a row I was amazed that over a dozen intrepid souls turned up of their own volition to go for a run. I respect that. Plus, have I mentioned that running down the Mall amongst the historic monuments and memorials still fills me with wonder every time? Not a bad place to take an evening jog if you ask me.

I'd planned the rest of the trip to be nearly identical to the week before: shacking up at my friend Dave's place in Georgetown/Glover Park, running along the canal, visiting some Pacers stores and then heading back home on Thursday. All went according to plan until the first great snowstorm of winter 2010 struck Thursday mid-morning. I was actually driving to Pacers in Lo
gan Circle when the first flurries began to fall, and by the time poor Mini slipped and slid her way to the Arlington location it seemed as though the prospect of driving home was a bit dubious. Poor Dave. Just when he thought he'd successfully gotten rid of me, here I was inviting myself over for another night. (Little does he know that Jordan and I will also be requesting his couch and Snuggie next Tuesday. I didn't have the heart to mention it to him just yet.)

Fortunately by this morning the streets had been sufficiently plowed and the bridges adequately sanded and the idiot drivers calmed enough to allow me to return to the Carolinas. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say it was almost worth staying the extra day to witne
ss this morning's exquisite sunrise. As I drove toward the Arlington Memorial Bridge, the Lincoln Memorial directly in front of me and the Washington Monument just off to the left, my breath was literally taken away by the intense hues of purple and pink that flooded the lightening sky. I tried to snap a photo with my phone while driving, which as you can imagine proved unsuccessful, but fortunately I found this shot online that almost perfectly captures the morning palette. What a way to start the day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week in Review

45 miles
1 double
1 day off
4 nights on the road (ATL, DC, Raleigh)
6 AFDs

Welp, my mileage was quite literally cut in half this week due to the Achilles/lower leg muscle thing. On a positive note, I made it through Club XC despite this niggle and was able to run well for the team. On a negative note, it's pretty stiff and sore today. Such is to be expected. I can only hope I'm able to train through it and not compromise another few weeks of mileage, as Houston Marathon is a mere six weeks away. I have a feeling that several visits to Greenapple & co. will be in my immediate future.

Moving on. This was an incredibly busy week followed by an equally busy weekend, but in reflecting it was an absolute blast. I had a great time visiting accounts and putting on a Craft and Karhu wear test run in the nation's capital; maybe it's because I'm an outsider, but I'm certain that running up the National Mall at dusk and seeing the White House Christmas tree ablaze will never get old. Big thanks to my friends Dave Nightingale (more on him in a minute) and Sarah Swiss for letting me crash with them in their respective cities and saving hundreds of dollars from my travel budget as well. Dave has more of the same to look forward to next week as I return to DC again from Tuesday until Thursday. I've just finally gotten the hang of navigating around the seemingly infinite number of traffic circles and circuitous back roads in the District and will hopefully repeat my nearly blemish-free driving record from last week (didn't wreck, didn't get hopelessly lost, only received one nominal parking ticket).

And then, of course, there was this weekend. What an amazing few days to be in Charlotte. Between the Thunder Road Marathon, the USATF Club XC Champs and the ensuing afterparty, suffice it to say the Queen City did things up right. Everyone who competed in these races ran their little hearts out, but a few shoutouts are deserved for the following:

Danielle Crockford rebounding from a DNF in Chicago to shatter her PR (and the 3-hour mark) and claim victory at TRM
Dave Nightingale enjoying a belated 25th birthday present by finishing a surprising 3rd at Club XC
Queens University of Charlotte stud Michael Crouch rebounding one week after his victory at DII Nationals to take fourth at Club XC (girlfriend Sarah Porter of Western Washington placed 2nd and 7th respectively at both races)
Billy Shue staying tough to set his own PR of 2:41 at TRM
Matt Jaskot finishing the Club XC race wearing a pair of neon green shorts with CRC logos emblazoned on both butt cheeks less than three hours after biking 30+ miles all over the TRM course (same goes for Aaron Linz minus the butt cheek part)
Ben Hernandez finishing the marathon despite pulling a Jordan Kinley and barely training
Camille Herron woman-ing up to race Club XC and scoring for her team despite just winning Dallas White Rock Marathon in 2:42 less than a week prior
CRC women's team finishing 9th overall in our Club XC debut!

Many more kudos are due, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind. This weekend made me realize how privileged and grateful I am to participate in the sport I love with such an amazing running community, both local and national. If this weekend doesn't get you pumped up for training, I don't know what will. See you out there!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Big Day of Racing

Part 1: Thunder Road Marathon
Result: Jordan won, 2:24:46

Part 2: USATF Club XC Champs

3.5-4 mile w/u + strides
6k race @21:04 (21:06 in official results)
9th place overall team

1.5 mile c/d
Total: 9-9.5 miles

Wow, what a day. I don't even know wh
ere to begin, but I suppose chronologically would be the best idea. For Jordan, the morning started just past 5am when he awoke to begin his pre-race prep. He was already long gone by the time I got up around 7, then woke Jenna who was crashing on our air mattress. We'd made plans to go see Jordan around the 10 mile mark on the Booty Loop, then head over to Caitlin's for the second half viewing. The only contingency factor would be road closures and traffic backups due to the race course criss-crossing every major thoroughfare in town, not to mention the fact that we had to get ourselves across town later in the morning for our own race, but we hoped we'd be able to avoid most of the chaos.

Jenna, John and Caitlin: Jordan's trusty cheering squad

Jordan striding down the Booty Loop on Queens Road West at mile 10

For the most part, the Thunder Road viewing went off without a hitch. Jenna and I saw Jordan right at 10 miles, which he came through in 54:30 looking strong and confident. He was also completely solo, as his pacer Paul had peeled off just past 10k. For the rest of the race it would be nothing but Jordan, the cop car, the lead cyclist and a few people dedicated enough to brave the cold and cheer outside. We immediately hustled over to Caitlin's, taking a bit of a circuitous route after reaching one of the aforementioned race crossings at Morehead and Kenilworth, and arrived within plenty of time to see Jordan again at 18 miles. Again he was solo and again he looked strong and relaxed. From that point on he would be entering the loneliest part of the course, but unfortunately this was also the part that would be too logistically challenging for us to reach by car and too far for us to traverse on foot given our own upcoming race. We opted to stay put and see Jordan again at 25 miles which passed literally in front of John and Caitlin's house. We knew he was hoping to break the course record of 2:24:20 and by our calculations he would be right on. When we saw him charging the downhill with a mile to go we were confident he'd broken the mark, only to be a bit deflated a few minutes later when Jay rode up on his bike to tell us that he'd missed it by 26 seconds. Sounds like a lot, but only one second a mile for an entire marathon seems a bit of cruel irony. My initial disappointment was quickly overshadowed by my excitement that Jordan had bested his PR by over two minutes, completely solo on a tough course. Definitely a respectable run. We stuck around to see Billy finish in 5th place with a new 2:41 PR but had to depart before Danielle came cruising by with her sub-3 hour victory. I would've liked to cheer her and several other friends on, but we had business to attend to.

Caitlin shouting words of encouragement as Jordan passes mile 25

I'm not going to lie; for the entire drive out to McAlpine I was a nervous wreck. Nervous because I have very little cross-country experience, nervous because I'd barely run 25 miles the entire week and most of all nervous that I'd let my team down by having to pull out if my Achilles (or whatever muscle) became too painful. I had no way of knowing what would happen and could only hope for the best. We set off on our warmup together as a team, the first and maybe last time for all seven of us to do so. The park was absolutely packed and it was cool to see so many teams and fans out to support them. Our race was scheduled to go off at 12:45, and with 10 minutes to go the CRC lady harriers approached the starting box.

Now, a word about that. I'm not one to make excuses or complain about things that affect everybody equally ("it's too cold" or "it's too hot" or "the course was too
difficult"), but I think I am justified in complaining that we got pretty much the worst starting location of all time. Or, to be precise, we got the 51st worst starting location of the 55 available. Our box was situated all the way to the right of the starting line, which meant we would have to sprint across the tangent as quickly as possible in order to make it onto the narrow dirt path without getting stuck behind 100 other people. It was definitely not best case scenario, but at least Jordan had prepared Caitlin and me for that situation. We would simply have to get out hard for 90 seconds and then settle, just as we'd practiced. So simple, right?

Running side by side with Caitlin early in the race

12:45 came quickly and before I knew it we were off. Caitlin and I had hoped to work together for most of the race, and by the time we'd reached the dirt path I was situated right on her shoulder. We'd gotten out as well as could be hoped for and were probably in the top 60-70 at this point. Just before making the first turn Caitlin reminded us to "settle," and we tried to do so despite the throng of women around us. We'd said in advance that going out faster than 5:30 would be suicide given our current fitness levels, so we were both relieved to split 5:31 through the first mile. I still felt comfortable and it was reassuring to have my teammate by my side. I heard countless shouts our names and of "Go CRC!" which of course boosted my spirits and resolve. Though the Achilles was in the back of my mind it hadn't yet become an issue, but I was apprehensive about testing it on the first pass of the hill. Fortunately the hill came and went uneventfully and I didn't even seem to be in any danger of falling down the steep descent (my other great concern), and before I knew it Caitlin and I were running down the familiar path beside the pond preparing for the second loop.

At this point in the race, the powers that be had changed the course in a way I'd never seen before. Basically we had to run up a small, rather gradual grassy hill, make a sharp 180-degree turn at the top of it and then come back down to where we'd started. It was, in a word, stupid. So stupid, in fact, that as I ran up it I very distinctly remember thinking, "I've run at McAlpine a million times and have never once had to go up this ridiculous made-up hill." I guess they were just trying to add on some extra distance to the course, but there were several other ways to do so without this awkward addition. Whatever. This was also the point in the race when I began to pull away slightly from Caitlin. I silently willed her to come with me but would not see her again until the finish. Instead, I tried to focus on staying strong and maintaining form down the long straightaway, but at this point my legs were beginning to fatigue. I was just as worried about being caught as I was about catching others, but fortunately more of the latter occurred than the former. The second trip up the hill felt like an absolute crawl, and the final straight to the finish seemed to go on forever, but I charged for home and pumped my arms as hard as I could. I saw the clock tick past 21 minutes just a few seconds before I crossed the line, which was a bit of a bummer as I'd harbored aspirations of breaking that mark, but there was little time to dwell on it. Caitlin came in just a few seconds later and we immediately went over to congratulate an exhausted Pezz who'd finished 10th.

Coming down to the pond for the finish

The next few minutes were a blur as the remaining 200 runners came in, including the rest of our team. We exited the chute to find tons of CRC members, friends, family members and even Jordan who'd managed to make it just as our race was starting. There were plenty of hugs and congratulations to go around, especially when we found out that our team had cracked the top 10. As club president Aaron said later, to compete among teams that have many more resources than us (we didn't even have matching warmups, though I had managed to score us some sweet Craft tees for our uniform tops), some of which are populated by legitimate professional runners, and still finish as high as we did was definitely an accomplishment. I couldn't have been prouder to run with this group of ladies and to represent CRC today.

From a personal perspective, the race showed that my fitness isn't too far from where it needs to be. Had I found those extra five seconds and cracked 21 as I'd hoped, I would've beaten a few other "professionals" who were just over that mark. However, I will note that two of the girls I finished between, Esther Erb from Zap and my friend Jemissa Van Hoy who works at Fleet Feet Raleigh, just ran in the 27:30s for 8k less than a month ago. Knowing that tells me I could probably achieve similar results at that distance on the roads, which is far better than I expected to be at this point. If nothing else, this provides a solid foundation for me to build on in the weeks leading up to Houston.

But enough about me and this running talk. Now it's time for the afterparty!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thunder Road and Club XC Eve

As I'm typing this entry, we are less than 24 hours away from the biggest racing weekend Charlotte has seen since...well, forever. (D2 Track Nationals was arguably a more prestigious weekend but tomorrow's events will by far have more participants.) As many of you already know, Jordan decided a little over a week ago to attempt to defend his title at Thunder Road. Like last year, he plans to wear the Karhu Racers. Unlike last year, he plans to wear a pair that aren't three sizes too small. Another difference between this year and last is that he actually has a time goal this year, specifically something in the 2:22-2:24 range. There's no question that he's strong from having put in over two months of consecutive 100+ mile weeks; now the question will be whether that strength is enough to overcome the inevitable prospect of running solo for the last half of a somewhat hilly race. Fortunately he has been able to "legally" enlist the help of a pacemaker in the form of Paul, who will probably be able to take him through 8-10 miles at the pace he's aiming for. Caitlin and I and hopefully a few other friends plan to track him down at several points during the second half of the race, as we don't really need to be at McAlpine for our own event until at least 11am.

Speaking of, I must admit that I'm approaching tomorrow's run with a bit of trepidation. I've had to cut my running practically in half this week due to the Achilles situation, and as we speak it is still a bit swollen and sore. The worst is in the morning when it is especially stiff. As you can imagine, the frigid weather we've been experiencing this week is also less than ideal. Fortunately our race tomorrow is rather late (12:45pm) and is forecasted to be significantly warmer than the rest of the week (upper 40s to low 50s), both of which will benefit me from an injury standpoint. My spirits were further lifted during my appointment with Dr. Duffy this morning (have I mentioned that the folks at Greenapple Sports & Wellness continue to save my life on a regular basis?) when he concluded that the problem isn't my Achilles at all, but actually a muscle that runs down the medial side of the Achilles called the flexor hallicus longus. I realize that sounds made up but he swears it's a real thing. It also connects down at the big toe which means, as per usual, this probably all comes down to my bunions and generally deformed big toe joint. Thanks again, Mom. Fortunately, however, the upside is that he doesn't think my Achilles is in any danger of rupturing or otherwise rendering me incapacitated tomorrow. I will probably experience some discomfort during and after the race, but nothing that will further exacerbate my injury. Once I get through the race tomorrow I'll just need to take several days of icing, stretching, Sticking and easy peasy running until this thing clears up.

So, with that bit of relief in mind, I'm definitely feeling more confident about tomorrow. Not necessarily about my placing, as there are some seriously legit girls running, but about my ability to compete to the best of my ability without being distracted by this injury. I hope tomorrow brings a new PR for Jordan, a successful race for the CRC team and a bitchin' time at the afterparty. Let the great Charlotte running weekend begin!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week in Review

80 miles
3 doubles
7 days in Charlotte
5 AFDs

This entire week was built around Wednesday's monster workout, and it went incredibly well. The flip side is that now my left Achilles is in a bad way. I'm still able to run, but it's stiff and swollen for most of the day and growing increasingly uncomfortable. I had planned to go at least 12 this morning but cut it to 10 after things didn't improve. While at home I've been rehabbing like a madwoman with ice, heat, epsom salts, compression socks and the Stick. Treatment seems to lead to some noticeable immediate improvement, but I'm still waking up in the morning with some pronounced tightness. It doesn't help that next week promises record low temperatures and lots of time in the car, neither of which is conducive to loosening up these old legs. I'm hoping this recent unpleasant development doesn't curtail my plans for Club XC next season, and even more hopeful that it doesn't compromise my upcoming training for Houston Marathon. I'll know more in the next few days.

In the meantime, I'm hitting the road again. I'm driving to Atlanta tonight to spend Monday traveling with our new rep Kyla, then home Monday night to prepare for a 12-hour turnaround. Tuesday morning I depart for DC, where Craft and Karhu is sponsoring the City Sports run club for the month of December. I'll stick around to visit some accounts on Wednesday, then head back to the Carolinas on Thursday for a Craft wear test run at Fleet Feet Raleigh. And then finally I will return home Friday morning just in time for a busy weekend of running in Charlotte! Whew! It's a crazy lifestyle but so far I'm loving it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ladies Run at McAlpine

4.5 mile w/u
Target: ~30 mins. of Caitlin's tempo
Actual: 5 miles (6:17, 6:13, 5:58, 6:07, 6:09)
2.5 mile c/d
Total: 12 miles

Earlier this week Caitlin and I responded to an email Aaron sent out trying to rally a group of speedy girls for a fun run at McAlpine. We agreed to meet at 9am, starting at Main Entrance (Caitlin) and Old Bell (me) and running toward each other, and we very beneficently opened up the invitation to a few select guys as well. That said, we had no idea that over 20+ people would rally on a cold Saturday morning and join us. It was quite an inspiring sight to see the formidable size of the Main Entrance group running toward us just before the mile marker, and as per usual made me proud to be a member of CRC. I don't think I've ever run with Caitlin, Alice, Kelly, Megan and Danielle all at the same time, not to mention the throng of others who joined us. Pretty sweet.

After a few miles of easy running and lighthearted conversation, Caitlin's plan was to peel away for a 50-minute marathon pace tempo. Though my legs and, particularly, my left Achilles were a bit fatigued from Wednesday's monster workout, I figured I was game for at least 30 minutes. After assembling a male entourage of Lat, Jordan, John, Ben, Thomas, AJ and one new guy (David?), we set off.

Overall the run went fine, as you can read in Caitlin's blog. Though we didn't chat the entire time, I found the pace to be perfectly conversational whenever I did have something to say. Aerobically this was a walk in the park, but as I approached the fifth mile I could tell my legs were more tired than I thought, and that my Achilles was tightening up at an alarming rate. By this point John and Jordan were long gone and Lat was also pulling away, and I could see that unfortunately Caitlin would get caught in no man's land once I stopped. For that reason I would've liked to continue, but pulling the plug at five was definitely the right call for me. Thomas and NGD (new guy David) followed suit, which meant that I had some company on my cool down jog back to Old Bell. I'm going to have to closely monitor my Achilles over the next few days, as now is certainly not the time to face an incipient injury.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Club XC Nationals Prep Workout

2+ mile w/u
Part 1: 3x6 mins. w/first 90 secs hard, 3 mins. rest
Part 2: 4xhill loop (500m), 1 min. rest
Part 3: 5xlake loop (~600m), 2 mins. rest
Part 1: 3x6 w/mile splits of 5:42, 5:35, 5:33
Part 2: 4xhill @ avg. 1:52
Part 3: 5xlake @2:00, 1:59, 1:59, 1:58, 1:57
1.5 mile c/d
Total: 11 miles

For at least a week, Jordan has been scheming to create a workout for me that would, as he rather gleefully put it, "take me to the well." Another time he boasted it would "make me vomit." The closer we came to the fateful day, the more excited he became. I have to admit, I was starting to get a bit worried. Fortunately I was able to recruit Caitlin to join me on her lunch break for the first 2/3 of this behemoth, which boosted my spirits more than she probably realizes. As many of you know, she and I will be teaming up with a handful of other speedy ladies to represent the Charlotte Running Club at the USATF Club XC Championships hosted here at McAlpine next weekend. To say we are familiar with the course is an understatement, but Jordan wanted us to go over some specific sections and tactics to help us be best prepared for our upcoming race.

Part one of the workout was designed strictly to simulate the chaos of the start. The starting line at McAlpine is not very wide to begin with and proceeds to narrow onto the dirt path almost immediately. Going out hard at the gun will be imperative unless we want to be stuck back in 100th place going into the woods. Thus, for the 3x6 minutes Jordan had us practice going out hard--what felt like a sprint to me--for the first 90 seconds, then settling into a more comfortable, but still pressed, pace for the remainder of the interval. I must admit that this ended up being the toughest part of the workout for me, as I simply haven't sprinted nearly all out in a long time. Fortunately I was able to regain my composure after the first 90 seconds and continue pushing in a more controlled, relaxed manner to come through the mile marker in a respectable time. Caitlin ran incredibly strong for this part of the workout, and I was content to tuck in behind her and Jordan for the duration.

Part two sent us straight to the hill. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the McAlpine course, it boasts one solitary hill, and I can assure you now it will be a doozy on race day. The fact that it's a short, steep uphill followed by a shorter, steeper downhill, all on dirt, means that there is almost guaranteed to be at least one person who goes careening down and tumbling into the pond at the base of the hill. The women's 6k course traverses the hill twice and the men's 10k course three times, which makes those odds even greater. No doubt it will be most challenging on the first pass, which comes just over a mile and a half into the race when people will still be bunched together. Today our pack was only three deep, but even at that I had to force myself not to be overly timid on the descent. There are definitely a few spots where a carelessly placed foot could result in disaster, but fortunately all of us remained bipedal today. After the third interval Caitlin had to call it a day due to time constraints and chest congestion (which seems to be going around), which left me solo save for my coach/pacer for the rest of the workout.

Surprisingly, I began to feel the strongest and most confident at the time when I'd expected the worst. Guess that's the benefit of setting the bar low. After finishing up the final hill repeat we jogged over to the pond, where Jordan wanted me to practice running fast with tired legs. This was the point when I was most grateful for his presence, as a stiff wind gusted against us for the first half of each lap. Every time I stayed tucked behind him for the first 300 meters, then tried to open up the stride and finish hard with the wind at my back. It wasn't until the final two that I truly began to feel the weight of the entire workout descend upon my legs. It was time to wrap things up. I managed to save the best for last and finished with my fastest split of part three, exhausted but thankfully nowhere near the vomiting that Jordan had so hopefully predicted.

During the slowest cooldown on Earth, Jordan and I were able to reflect on the workout. It had gone just as well if not better than either of us had expected and provided me with a much needed confidence boost for Club XC. If anything, it showed me that while I still might not be very fast, I'm stronger than I thought. Certainly the same can be said for Caitlin. I can only hope we will reap the benefits of this during the second half of the race next weekend.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week in Review

80-81 miles
2 doubles
6 days in Texas
6 AFDs

I feel like a broken record saying this but, well, all things considered this turned into a decent week. Despite battling sickness and dealing with the now routine hassles of traveling, I managed to notch one okay workout and one respectable long run with friends. It was great to spend some time relaxing with my parents and indulging in some home cooked meals, but I must admit it was a bit of a relief to finally touch down in Charlotte after 16 days on the road.

Next up: a week of (gasp) no travel! Well, that's not entirely true. I do have a Craft and Karhu wear test run at Bull City Running in Durham, but Jordan is coming with me and we'll be spending the night at our friend Sarah's house so it should be a quick fun trip. Otherwise I'm actually planning to remain firmly planted in Charlotte until Sunday. Here's to hoping I can finally get in that big week of workouts I've been hoping for.

Salem Lake Long Run

1 hour 55 mins. (16 miles)

This long run went 100% better than the run in Ft. Worth last week (or, specifically, 100% better than the last 30 minutes of the run last week). I felt strong and relaxed throughout, and for once wasn't dying to stop as we approached the two-hour mark.

The preparation for this run actually began almost a month ago, when Jenna, Tanya and I had agreed to meet up at a new running venue after a hectic November of traveling. Jenna, who now coaches at High Point, often takes to these trails on the weekend with her team, and I've heard Caitlin speak lovingly about putting in the miles here during her time at Wake Forest. For Tanya and Jordan and me, however, this run was the opportunity to try out someplace completely new. As a Charlottean who often grows bored with the monotony of running a million loops at McAlpine to cobble together a long run, I was relishing the change.

After almost a 90 minute drive, the three of us pulled up to the trail parking lot and waited for Jenna's arrival. We'd hoped Caitlin would join us as well but I guess she was too cool for school. At any rate, our group was planning to complete two seven-mile loops of the trail and then add on a few more miles. Jenna didn't have such high ambitions, but we hoped to convince her otherwise along the way. We set off at an easy pace and immediately fell into conversation, which quickly helped pass the time and distracted us from the bitingly cold air. The dirt and gravel trail hugged the perimeter of the lake, gently rolling in spots and shaded by a canopy of trees. We passed a few other intrepid runners on the first loop, but for the most part had the trails to ourselves.

Our first loop passed before I knew it, and after a quick bathroom stop we were off for loop #2. Unable to convince Jenna to man up for the duration, she turned around just a few miles into our second go around. This left the Three Musketeers to hammer out the final few miles together. I didn't notice the tempo steadily increasing, but hearing Tanya's Garmin splits post run indicates that we did exactly that. I felt comfortable closing the final mile at 6:40 pace, a far cry from the dejected shuffle of my final few miles on the Trinity River trail last Sunday. Clearly my cold is on its way out, which makes me happy. What made me even happier was adjourning for breakfast at a tasty local bakery and thawing out with some coffee and sweet potato pancakes. If there's a better way to start off a wintry Sunday morning, I can't think of it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

MPHS Track Workout

2.5 mile w/u + strides
Target: 2400, 2000, 1600, 1200, 800 w/400 jog; start @6:00 pace and cut down
Actual: 8:55 (5:57 through mile); 7:20 (5:52); 5:43; 4:11; 2:42 = 37:20 for 6 miles
2 mile c/d
Total: 10-10.5 miles

Just before bed last night, no doubt wrapped snuggly in a tryptophan-induced haze, my dad asked Jordan and me if we'd like to accompany him to the Mt. Pleasant High School track in the morning. Pops is gearing up for a five-person relay at the White Rock Marathon next weekend and was looking to put the finishing touches on his speedwork. While I'm a tad embarrassed to admit I probably wouldn't have come up with the idea on my own, I was actually happy to acquiese. I'm finally beginning to shake the grips of my cough and cold, so I might as well try to salvage the week of running if at all possible. We said goodnight early and agreed to an 8am departure time.

In contrast to the preceding days in Texas, Friday dawned crisp and startlingly cold. Since our 70-degree rainy run yesterday, temperatures had fallen steadily toward the 30-degree mark, which is where the mercury was hovering this morning. For my purposes, the chilly air meant it wasn't sensible to attempt any short, speedy intervals; instead, Coach Jordan advised a backward ladder starting at just six-minute pace for a mile and a half. It sounded pretty doable.

From the outset, I could tell things would be okay. Not great, not groundbreaking, but fine enough given my slight chest congestion and the residual Nyquil still lingering in my system. Jordan agreed to set the pace, which meant that save for a few laps I wasn't required to do much thinking. It also meant that I wouldn't have to fight the headwind on the backstretch, as his ample girth was more than sturdy enough to block it for me. Those two factors were no doubt the strongest contributors to my comfort level during the workout today, as only on the final two intervals did I ever feel like I was laboring. I was surprised to see that the entire workout totaled just over 37 minutes, which means that even including the four easy "recovery" laps I managed to average sub-6:15 pace for six miles. Active recovery isn't something I did much of while working out at Queens, but Jordan has emphasized it in all my recent workouts. It makes things tougher, but I can definitely see the potential benefits.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Trot Meets Great Flood

1 hour 40 mins.
12 miles

While many of my friends in Charlotte, Atlanta and Dallas were lacing up their boots for a formalized Turkey Trot, Jordan and I were meeting up with my dad in the kitchen of my parents' East Texas home to drink some coffee in preparation for our own trot of sorts. Though no such official event exists in the Piney Woods region, my dad nonetheless assembled over a dozen of his friends and fellow local runners to partake in an early morning pre-feast run. Naturally, Jordan and I were the featured celebrity guests, which no doubt accounted for the unusually high attendance.

The sky was just beginning to lighten as we set off down the country roads, naturally clumping into several different pace groups. Jordan and I planned to run a half hour or so with the group before splitting off to lengthen the route. The odds of doubling after the Thanksgiving feast were nil, which meant we needed to get in a respectable distance this morning. So, after 30 or so minutes of shuffling along with the geezers (kidding, Dad), we picked up the pace and struck out on our own. In retrospect, our decision might not have been the most prudent, but we could hardly know that at the time. The first few ominous sprinkles were just beginning to fall as we waved goodbye to our fellow trotters.

Within what seemed like seconds, that all changed. Rain began to fall; steady but pleasant at first, then gradually swelling to an almost deafening crescendo of water. To make matters worse, for the next few miles we were running directly into a headwind, which made the droplets feel like tiny shards of glass pelting our exposed skin. Every time I thought it couldn't rain any harder, it did. At one point I literally turned and ran sideways because the water was flooding my contact lenses to the point of near blindness. The ground, previously dry, became a flash flood in minutes, and at certain points Jordan and I were tromping through ankle deep puddles. To say this made for an uncomfortable middle section of the run would be putting it mildly.

And then, just as abruptly as it began, the deluge stopped. Even more incredibly, it was replaced by what I swear was two-thirds of a double rainbow. A double rainbow, people! We weren't quite as excited about it as this guy, but nonetheless it was a pretty amazing sight. Even more bizarre was the curtain of rain that seemed to dance back and forth just a few meters in front of us, pelting a few square feet at a time before moving on to new territory. We found ourselves briefly soaked again as we ran through its pocket, but were on the other side again in just a few seconds. Mercifully, the rest of the run was dry and uneventful, and my dad even had fresh donuts waiting for us upon our return. My legs weren't terribly banged up, but my body was as exhausted as if it had just endured a natural disaster. Thank goodness there was nothing on tap for the remainder of the day except eating turkey, drinking homemade pumpkin spice lattes and watching the Cowboys lose. After such a crazy morning, I don't think I could handle any more Thanksgiving excitement.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week in Review

83 miles
4 doubles
5 days in Austin
2 days in Ft. Worth
1? AFD

What a week. Austin was incredibly busy--I enjoyed neither the luxury of sleeping past 5:30am nor cracking open a computer until Friday--but it was also a great time. Rarely does the opportunity present itself to reunite with so many familiar faces, and I'm incredibly thankful that I was able to see old friends and new while down in the Lone Star State.

As far as running goes, overall I'm pleased with the week. If nothing else, getting in the volume was an accomplishment considering how busy I was. I also shocked the hell out of myself with a respectable 5k on a very tough course on Wednesday, which is another tally in the "plus" column. From a self-preservation perspective, the best part of this week was the amount of miles spent on soft surfaces. Thanks to the dirt loop around Town Lake and the almost entirely unpaved Trinity River trail in Ft. Worth, I can literally count on one hand the number of runs that took place on pavement. (That would be the warmup and 5k race on Wednesday and our loop of White Rock Lake in Dallas on Saturday, for a total of 14 paved miles, in case you were wondering.)

The big question mark for the week ahead is my health. Jordan and I are spending the week in East Texas with my parents, and I'm anticipating a big week of training including some tough workouts on the undulating blacktop roads behind my parents' neighborhood. Coming down with a cold means we'll have to play all of that by ear. Either way, I hope to spend the week catching up on rest, eating good food and spending time with the fam. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Cowtown Long Run

1 hour 46 mins
(~14-14.5 miles)

Yup, the inevitable finally happened. I'm sick.

In hindsight, this is an ineluctable conclusion to the past few weeks of crazy travel, crazy work hours, a lot of running, a lot of free alcohol and not a lot of sleep. As early as last Sunday afternoon, I came to the realization that it was not a question of if I would get sick, b
ut rather when. In that respect I suppose it's a miracle that I didn't feel the first tell-tale scratchiness of the throat until Friday afternoon, when Jordan and I bid Austin adieu and set off in our rental car toward Dallas. Jordan had already begun feeling badly the day before, which further solidified the guarantee that I too would shortly begin experiencing symptoms.

For the most part, this slowly gathering storm of snot and sniffles hasn't hindered my enjoyment of the weekend. We've still been able to spend some quality time with friends, enjoy our runs and even take in a bit of shopping. But my burgeoning cold finally hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday morning, right smack dab in the middle of what was supposed to be an e
asy long run in Ft. Worth. Let's just say it did not end well for poor little me.

The first hour of the run was great. I'd reserved Jordan and I a room at a hotel where my parents always used to stay when they came to visit me at TCU, just a few steps from the Trinity River trail system that I know and love. Knowing Jordan prefers loop courses to mundane out-and-backs, I'd mentally devised what I thought was a pretty nice route for our run today. It started out with a few westward miles on the trail before crossing over a low water crossing, then continued on a trail/bike path through the shaded Overton Park neighborhoods. After dead-ending at the end of the park, we turned left to head uphill toward the TCU campus. This was the part of the run I was most anticipating, as I was eager to see all the construction and renovations that have taken place in the years since I attended. Turns out that when your football team goes from average to national class, funding seems to materialize out of nowhere. Sure enough, as Jordan and I jogged up throug
h the campus, I hardly recognized any of the buildings--including my own freshman dorm--that had once been as familiar as the back of my hand. Once clear of campus we popped out on University Drive, which commenced a long downhill back to the river trail. At this point we were just over an hour into the run and I was feeling great, despite the warm (70+ degree) weather and excessive (30+ mph) wind. I had no idea how drastically that was about to change.

TCU's Frog Fountain at night: one of the few remaining
constants from my tenure there

I felt the first inkling of my sudden implosion when Jordan suggested that I do a series of one-minute pickups. This is something that he and Jeff have been incorporating into his long runs for a while, and it worked out splendidly for me when I tried it for the first time in San Diego this summer. After the first few segments today, however, I could tell I was struggling. It wasn't so much my legs, though they were beginning to feel fatigued, but my breathing felt shallow, hoarse, panicky. The wind was at our backs at this point, which should've made me feel better, but instead it only filled me with impending dread. If I felt this poorly going into the wind, how much of a death march would the final miles of the run be once we turned around? A few minutes later I voiced my concern to Jordan, who questioned whether we should pull the plug immediately. Instead, I suggested we keep going another half mile or so, as I was growing increasingly thirsty and knew where a water fountain was located. We soldiered on, finishing off one last pickup (our fifth?) before reaching the fountain.

Once we turned around, it was every bit as bad as I'd imagined. Even though I tried to tuck in and draft behind Jordan, sudden gusts of wind reduced me practically to a standstill. I swear my cheeks even started flapping at one point. I could tell I was slowing Jordan down and didn't want to drag him into the morass of my misery, so I gave him permission to go ahead while I slogged through the last few miles. I was defeated, dehydrated, demoralized. Moreover, I was mystified. How was it possible for a run to go from great to abysmal in such a short span of time? We'd planned to run a solid two hours, but clearly I would fall well short of that. Now I know that it can be attributed to one part wind, one part dehydration and about five parts sickness. As the day progressed I proceeded to feel worse and worse, ultimately reduced to eating soup from Panera for dinner and passing out at 9:30 while watching the American Music Awards. People, did you hear that?? I was watching the American Music Awards. That's when you know that things just aren't right in my world. Someone please put me out of my misery.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Running Event Indie 5k

2 mile w/u + strides
Target: 5k race @sub-18
Actual: 17:29 (5:47, 5:38, 5:37); 5th place woman
2 mile c/d
Total: 9 miles

For those of you not familiar with The Running Event, it is essentially a giant industry trade show. Virtually every vendor you've heard of (Asics), and some you haven't (Thermajock), attend and set up display booths in a giant expo hall. When I say "every vendor," I mean everything from footwear to socks to accessories to nutrition products. If you can picture a brand that exists in your local running store, it's a safe bet that some of their sales reps and corporate office representatives are in attendance. So to whom are these vendors displaying all their wares? Again, if you picture your local running store, this is where the fun comes in for them. The Running Event is more or less an all-expense paid vacation for their owners and buyers to one of the coolest cities in the US of A. In addition to the huge expo full of products at their disposal, they can also attend several days of clinics and breakout sessions, plus several fancy dinners and a few fun extracurricular activities. One of the most popular of those extracurricular activities is the Indie 5k, a small race that is set up just for Running Event participants on Wednesday morning. Though it may be small, I would venture to say it is one of the deepest and fastest non-prize money races in existence.

When my alarm went off at 5:30 on Wednesday morning--which, unfortunately, is the latest I would be able to sleep for the entire week--I woke up and immediately began my pre-race preparations. The Indie 5k is just a fun and light-hearted event, but having hardly run a single sub-6 minute mile since my injury I was a little nervous about what I could do. I knew from past years that the course, a hilly and winding figure-eight loop through Zilker Park, was by no means easy, and I really wanted to avoid embarrassing myself if at all possible. My new coworker Keith Pierce--a 2:20 marathoner and top-3 finisher at the San Antonio Marathon this past Sunday--picked me up at 6:15, and just a few minutes later we were pulling up to the race location. I located Jordan and his co-worker Lee right away, and we immediately set out into the cool morning air for a warmup jog. Lee was just here for the freebies--the "title sponsors" like Nuun and 2XU were giving away schwag including free $50 compression socks--but Jordan also hoped to post a top time. Considering that former All-Americans like Grant Robison had won the race in previous years, Jordan wasn't too optimistic for the overall victory, but both of us harbored dreams of winning the coveted Fastest Vendor award.

We finished our warmup and started stripping down for the race, mingling and chatting with other friends and race participants. We saw Tim, Beth and Dawn from RFYL, my buddy Mike Rouse from K-Swiss, Scott Schilter from Nuun, North Carolina NB rep Mike Moran, a gaggle of Brooks peeps, Lou and Chuck from Runner's Depot in Ft. Lauderdale, and about 100 other people I knew. The Running Event is essentially a glorified high school reunion for those of us who have been in the industry for a few years, and today's race was no exception. As we lined up at the start I craned my neck to see if I could spot the ringers. Traditionally the women's race is won in a pedestrian 18:40, but I could already tell that wouldn't be the case today. For one, NB professional athlete Sarah Bowman was on the line just a few yards from me, and I knew that I had no chance against a multiple D1 All-American like her. A few other girls looked pretty speedy, though I couldn't recognize any by name.

After a rather long and drawn-out version of the National Anthem--or at least it seemed that way due to the brisk temperature--the starter sent us on our way. Immediately I felt like I was sprinting. I'm not sure if this was because of the early hour, the temperature, the fact that I've done zero speed work in the past few months, or a combination of all three. At any rate, I know that I never felt like I had a chance to settle down throughout the entire race, which is a bit of a new sensation for me. Even in short races like the 5k I usually have at least a mile where I feel calm and in control, but that wasn't the case today. Surprisingly, however, once I mentally acknowledged that this was going to hurt like hell the entire time, my mind was able to relax a bit. The first mile was a grind, as it contained the longest uphill on the entire course, but to my surprise it actually felt kind of good to be working this hard. From the gun I'd fallen firmly into fifth place, with Sarah Bowman just a few yards in front of me and several other girls leading the charge up front. For a brief moment I entertained the thought that they might come back, but by the first mile marker it became apparent that this was wishful thinking. I was slightly discouraged to see how slow my split was--rudimentary math told me 5:50s wouldn't be fast enough to break 18 minutes--but the frustration (and the approaching steep downhill) only fueled my desire to push harder.

About halfway through the course we approached the figure-eight section, which meant crossing paths with the slower folks while simultaneously trying to fight up another hill. I was struggling at this point but knew that if I could keep it together I'd have the opportunity for another steep downhill in the third mile. Seeing a 5:38 split for mile two bolstered my confidence--though I was still working as hard as before, at least my pace was reflecting the effort--and I knew that if I maintained my focus I'd have a chance to run a decent time. I was in no-man's land in terms of race competition, as Sarah Bowman et al had long since disappeared into the distance, but there were plenty of men around for me to work with. The familiar steep uphill/downhill came and went, and for a moment I rejoiced that there were no more hills on the course. A few yards later, to my chagrin, we turned again to go up the figure-eight hill. At this point I was working as hard as I could and would've no doubt fallen apart if the terrain hadn't begun to slope downward toward the finish. With less than a minute to go I could see the finish line banner looming and began to kick for home. Though tired, I felt the strongest at this point than any other in the race, which in hindsight I see as quite encouraging. I crossed the line just a tick under 17:30, ecstatic to have run such a respectable time in my first 5k race since August.

A few seconds later I spotted Jordan, aka Pancho Villa, chatting with some people from Craft and Karhu. I thought it was awesome that our GM Eric, our President Jay and our Bike VP Gilles got up early and jogged over here just to cheer for me. They had plenty of other responsibilities for the day, so to see them take time to come support me meant a lot. As it turns out, Pancho had gone out hard and finished fourth behind former Texas sub-4-minute miler Darren Brown and a few other ringers, with OK Runner friend Jerry Faulkner and my marathon wearied coworker Keith just behind. None of us were sure where our performances would stack up in their respective divisions, as the official results wouldn't be announced until tonight's dinner, but we'd no doubt represented the brands well. Now it was time to spend a few miles cooling down with friends--our OK Runner peeps Jerry and Scotty D, plus Tim Rhodes and Chris Bradle--as we all trotted back down the Town Lake trails to our respective hotels. The Indie 5k was just the beginning of yet another busy day in Austin, but there's hardly a better way to start than a nice hard run with a few hundred of your closest friends in the industry.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Week in Review

80-81 miles
4 days in FTL
2 doubles
13.1 miles along the beach

Apologies all around, as I'm seriously behind schedule in typing this up. Though the post is dated for Sunday, it's actually the following Friday as we speak. Things have been crazy busy in Austin (which is another post) and this is literally the first time I've cracked open a computer since I blogged about my race in the hotel lobby on Sunday afternoon.

What I do remember about the week in question is that it was seriously frontloaded to accomodate my travel and work schedule for 13.1. When I embarked for Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday morning I'd already put 52 miles on my feet for the week, but would only notch 28 more for the remaining three days. It would've been kind of cool to see how high I could've taken things had I not been working 12-hour days all weekend, but it's probably best that I don't push the limits too much right now. My health and fitness are finally starting to come around and I shouldn't do anything dumb to mess it up.

13.1 Ft. Lauderdale

2 mile w/u
Target: 13.1 @not super slow
Actual: 1:25:30 (minus a few, er, stops); 3rd female
Total: 15-15.5 miles

If there's one thing I love doing on a Sunday, it's waking up at 3am. Let's just say that neither myself nor Nora, the Florida sales rep, were super pumped when my alarm sounded at a time when cool people are probably still awake. For uncool people like us, the alarm meant it was time to wake up and head over to the finish line where we would be setting up our wares for the 13.1 Ft. Lauderdale race. This morning's festivities would cap off four days in South Florida, which began with a packet pickup at Runner's Depot on Thursday and continued with two days of packet pickup/expo at a local hotel before concluding on the beach today.

We arrived just after 4am and immediately began setting up our tents, tables, footwear and apparel as best we could in the darkness. Even with daylight's savings time the
sky wouldn't begin to lighten until well past the race's 6:13 start, as I would find out several hours later. By 5:45 our setup was complete, which meant it was time for me to strip down to my race skivvies and jog the ~2 miles to the start line. I wasn't anticipating any record beating times given my current state of fitness and my even more current state of exhaustion, but what the heck. Might as well get in my long run with a few thousand strangers and some supported water stops, right? Since the race offers no prize money I entertained thoughts of winning, but there was no way to tell who else would show up just for kicks. Once I reached the start line I spotted three other women who looked reasonably legit, all of whom were a bit older than me and all of whom were wearing racing flats. I, on the other hand, was sporting the Fast Rides I'd been rocking all week, as I didn't think the increased speed was a fair trade for how banged up my legs would be after pounding the pavement for 13 miles. Were this a serious race I would've definitely gone for the lighter shoes, but for today I didn't deem it necessary.

The race started precisely at 6:13, and immediately I settled in behind the lead g
roup of women. The three I'd spotted at the start shot out in front of me, and although Jordan had counseled me to start with the leaders regardless of pace I thought it best to hold back. I kept trying to remind myself that feeling good in the first few miles meant nothing; the lack of quality workouts still missing from my regimen would surely catch up with me later in the race. Despite this mentality, I still split 6:06's quite comfortably for the first two miles; by this point I'd passed one of the women, but the lead two were already a good 10-15 seconds ahead. I had no idea what kind of time they were hoping to run, but sub-1:18 pace was simply not something I was willing to go for right now. I continued to hold back, instead trying to find a few dudes to latch onto.

About four miles into the race we approached a causeway bridge that would take us back toward the beach. This was one of only two "hills" in the race (the other coming in mile 2 when we ran down into a tunnel and then came up and out the other side); other than these minor blips the course was perfectly and completely flat. I'm confident the same could be said for most races tha
t take place in the Sunshine State. While the terrain is an undeniable "'pro," a few marks could be made in the "con" category regarding the weather. Turns out it's warm, humid and windy here pretty much year round, and today was no exception. While my coworkers are suffering through freezing temps in Boston I'm sweating it out in 70-degree weather (near 80 by later in the morning.) Pretty crazy.

Shortly after descending the bridge, the course hooked a left to pop out on the A1A, which runs parallel to the beach. This is when the wind began to play a noticeable factor, as evidenced by the swaying of palm trees surrounding us. This is also when my stomach began to play a noticeable factor. Everyone who knows me is aware that I struggle with digestive issues while running, though mercifully they usually seem to abate on race day. For whatever reason, this was not true today. About halfway through the race I felt my stomach beginning to cramp up, and a mile later it became so uncomfortable that I actually stopped and wa
lked for a bit. Had there been a bathroom nearby I most certainly would have utilized it, but I didn't spot any in the vicinity. After about a minute of walking I began to run again, more than a little frustrated about my condition and also the fact that I had actually been gaining on the two lead women. The turnaround point came just past mile 8, and at that point I was able to gauge that they were about 150 meters in front of me. I stepped on the gas a bit in hopes of catching up.

My comeback was going smoothly until a few miles later, when I realized it was imperative that I stop for the bathroom. Fortunately one was within striking distance, but unfortunately this put the leaders hopelessly out of reach. Again, I was frustrated, and again I channeled this into running hard. I covered the last three miles at 6:15 pace--by no means blazing but a strong finish for where my fitness is right now--somehow m
anaging to hold off all the other women to finish third. Had I been passed while in the loo I probably wouldn't have crossed the finish line, but it seemed silly not to since I managed to make the podium in spite of myself. 1:25 is slower than I've run in quite some time, but subtracting a few minutes for the stops puts me right at Olympic Trials qualifying marathon pace. Did this feel like a marathon-paced run today? Definitely not. Am I confident I can run 6:19 or faster after 11 more weeks of training? Absolutely.

For better or worse, I had no chance to cool down after the race. The Karhu tent was bustling with activity and I'd already left Nora alone for long enough. I spent the remaining few hours selling schwag while admiring the aquamarine ocean waters, still in awe of the disparity between our climate here and the rest of the country. It truly was like a postcard, as you can see below.

I'd like to write more, but as I type this I'm in the lobby of the Hyatt Place Ft. Lauderdale, finishing up a load of laundry before catching my airport shuttle, a full 12 hours into my day. I'm off to my home state for our sales meeting and the Running Event in Austin. I can't wait to reunite with friends, coworkers and even Jordan for the next few days. I'll follow up soon from the Lone Star State!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Success! (Finally)

2 mile w/u + strides
Target: ~5 miles uptempo (~6:30 pace) down the McMullen Creek Greenway; then in-and-out miles back (3 hard @6:00)
Actual: 35:35 for 5.8 miles (6:15, 6:06, 6:05, 6:04, 6:03, 4:37 for .8); 6:30 (.8), 5:52, 7:28, 5:50, 7:30, 5:58 (on dirt)
1 mile c/d
Total: 14.5-15 miles

Praise Jesus, I'm not as terrible as I thought. In fact I would venture to say that, not unlike the greatest runner of all time, I'm contemplating coming back from brief thoughts of retirement. (Obviously that's where our similarities end.)

Details to follow soon, but suffice it to say I felt about a million times better than on last week's tempo run. I was able to run controlled and relatively relaxed throughout, only truly fatiguing on the final few "in" miles. The tempo portion in particular felt surprisingly easy, as I was able to approximate the pace I ran for a five mile race last month with significantly less effort.

Whew. I needed this.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Week in Review

80 miles
2 doubles
1 day in Ft. Lauderdale
5 AFDs

Unfortunately there's not a whole lot to share this week. Other than Wednesday's well-intentioned but poorly executed tempo run, all my other runs were just "easy" jaunts designed to put in the miles. Saturday morning I took part in an early morning run club with the Runner's Depot crew in Davie, then Sunday I was back in action at McAlpine enjoying the crisp autumn temperatures with Jordan. I wish I could say I felt awesome on either or both of those days, but the truth is every part of me just feels tired and flat. I suppose it's to be expected as my body absorbs the accumulation of the last few weeks' miles, but I can't wait for things to click back into place again.

The only real news of note for the weekend was the NYC marathon, which Jordan has already done a great job of recapping here. (How I love when his blog is actually up to date.) Watching the action unfold provided me with some much-needed motivation and excitement for the day when I might actually line up for 26.2 myself. Hopefully that day comes sooner than later.

On tap: 13.1 Ft. Lauderdale expo Thurs-Sat, 13.1 race Sunday, flying to Austin on Sunday night for sales meeting and the Running Event. Another busy week ahead!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Craptastic Tempo Run

2+ mile w/u
Target: 60 min. tempo starting @7:00 and cutting down
Actual: 52 mins; splits
7:18, 6:52, 6:31, 6:23, 6:22:, 6:19, 6:20, 5:08 for .81 miles (6:23 pace)
(courtesy of OK Runner blog)
2.5 mile c/d
Total: 12.5 miles

Welp, this pretty much sucked. Though I can't remember the last time I did an hour long tempo, both Jordan and Caitlin assured me that the first half would feel easy because we'd be starting at such a lackadaisical pace. That was the plan, but when it came to executing it I fell flat on my face (well, metaphorically; I feel like I have to clarify that since I did indeed fall flat on my face a few weeks ago).

We met before sunrise at McAlpine, both Jordan and I peering through the murky pre-dawn darkness until we spotted Caitlin's bobbing headlamp approaching from the distance. After a few miles warmup we settled into the uptempo portion of the run, hoping to start around 7 minutes. The cool air warmed me almost instantly as my effort level increased, and before long I was regretting the choice of gloves and multiple layers on top. Immediately I could tell that this was not going to be the relaxed, enjoyable romp I'd so naively envisioned in my head. Caitlin and Jordan chatted back and forth while I tucked in behind and attempted to will myself to relax. My spirits were further dashed when we came through the first mile exceedingly slower than planned; knowing that I felt this uncomfortable at a pace I normally maintain for "easy" runs wasn't exactly an impetus for success. As our splits dropped with the passing mile markers I was forced to mentally coach myself through each subsequent minute. I felt myself growing increasingly frustrated, discouraged and embarrassed as the run progressed, as memories of stellar workouts from last spring flitted through my mind like the taunts of a playground bully. At mile 5 I was convinced I'd drop out. At 6, I was definitely done. Mile 7 was for sure the last one I'd suffer through. Before I realized what was happening, Jordan and I were back at the Old Bell parking lot just short of 8 miles (Caitlin had peeled off to return to her car at 45 minutes), and mercifully he allowed me to cut the run short. Normally I feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of hard workouts, a mixture of relief and satisfaction, but today I just felt tired and out of shape. It was not, to use the expression literally, my finest hour.

At this point you must be asking yourself when I plan on snapping out of my self-pity and closing up this post with some nice and tidy positive thoughts. Guess what kiddos, it ain't that kind of blog today. Sometimes training means acknowledging your shortcomings and accepting your inadequacies without wrapping them up in a neat, cheerful, Runner's World-esque sort of encouraging bow. Today wasn't my day, and I'm pissed. Nothing else to do but get back out there tomorrow and keep trucking.